with an experienced performer and teacher with over 25 years experience.
Weekly studio classes; activities include horn ensembles and projects geared
toward building your performance skills toward your goals.
Frequent guest artists in studio class.
Affordable program with solid scholarship support available at all
levels; TA positions open for new MM or DMA students.
Big picture, this an excellent program that will
prepare you for employment in the field.
And also you likely can graduate from ASU with minimal debt,
which will better set you up for flexibility in relation to future
activities. Going to a very expensive school is no guarantee of a better
outcome and will actually limit your options.
Great facilities and ensembles, located in a large metropolitan area with many opportunities for motivated students.
And, for undergrad Music Education majors in horn (or anything else!),
there is no marching band requirement at Arizona State.
The video below is a slightly older view but gives another good look at the ASU School of Music:
FAQ -- Questions from prospective
students -- John Ericson
Some years ago, I had a
long FAQ online here. I then simplified the site a bit, eliminated the
page, but seeing similar questions continue to come in from many
applicants this FAQ is new for 2017-18, answering actual questions posed
by prospective students. As the audition season progresses more questions
will be answered.
How many of your graduates find professional
gigs after college? Do they get jobs directly after graduating, or do they
usually pursue a graduate degree first?
This is the proverbial
$64,000 question. In the bigger picture, one way I recently saw it put was
that graduating from the expensive/famous school is no guarantee of
success, particularly after undergraduate study.
Using myself as
an example, I went to a small college in Kansas as an undergrad, a
conservatory for my MM, and my Doctorate is from a large university with a
top tier music program. Of all horns whom I was in school with at all
those schools, only maybe a half dozen are still in music full time, at
least in the type of performance or higher education job of the type horn
performance majors typically aspire to. A pretty shocking percentage of
those 100 or so peers of mine got out of music nearly right away, while
others were and still are what you might think of as “semi-professional,”
with some high-level horn performing a part of their life, but other work
that really pays the bills.
I think back to those peers often; I
really don’t see myself as that much better than them, but here I am at
Arizona State. The simple fact is that only a fraction of graduates from
any horn performance program ultimately find full time positions such as
applicants typically have as goals. The best will ultimately find good
work (my winning the Third Horn position in Nashville was a key point in
my career), but there are simply not a lot of jobs.
This leads to
a trap to avoid. Attending a famous school with a famous teacher is no
guarantee of anything. Schools and teachers try to muddy the waters on
this a bit by expounding on their student successes, special programs,
etc. But a big part of the ultimate outcome is you, how hard you work, how
well you take advantage of the opportunities around you.
to gain some specific insights on this larger topic is this. Make a list
of couple dozen horn players and teachers around the United States that
you admire and would aspire to careers like theirs. Then look at where
they did their undergrad studies. The results will be all over the map.
They won’t be what you would guess. The best schools tend to attract more
of the best players as students, but, again, going to the same school is
no guarantee of the same outcome.
The other big point to note, a
potential trap to avoid, is that I graduated from my undergrad with no
debt at all! Going to a school such as ASU is really a good choice, you
can get through the degree with potentially very little debt which really
opens up your options for future study and work. The longer I am at ASU,
the more I feel this really is a great place to study, with great
performing opportunities and so much to offer.
Finally, there is a
specific, ASU horn answer to the original question. Working backwards,
almost always undergrad performance majors go on to other schools for
graduate degrees, to polish up excerpts and take auditions and such. I
hope with undergrad students to work out all the problems we can and to
prepare them well for future study and professional performance. And ASU
horn students have won jobs, information on that topic is outlined toward
the bottom of this page.
Are you available for lessons full
time, or will there be grad students who will also teach?
answer to both parts of your question are actually yes. I am full time
faculty at ASU; this is not just one of many gigs I do, so I am in my
office teaching nearly every day and teach all of the lessons to horn
performance majors. The program is large enough, however, that we also
have two TAs in the horn studio. They assist (lessons split 50/50) with
teaching the music education students in the lower rotation of ensembles,
and also assist with horn ensembles, among other duties.
picture, my standard advice is on the undergraduate level you are better
off studying with a teacher who is full time faculty at that school. For
graduate studies, this is not as critical, but I still tend to feel full
time faculty are more invested in your success than a part timer.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I aim to be
practical and goal oriented. A key thing for me is to work with each
student as an individual. I don’t have a highly defined “system” that all
people must follow, there is no one special emphasis area – other than to
work on problem areas and build up skills in an efficient manner. But to
give a more traditional answer, I aim to be balanced in my teaching, with
a fairly even split between etudes, solos, and orchestral excerpts. The
mission statement of the studio reflects the goals of my teaching style:
“Our mission at the ASU horn studio is to strive for excellence in
performance and to encourage and challenge each other in a supportive
This is a good point to add one more point. I am very
sure after more than 20 years of full time teaching that all players can’t
play the same way. Some teachers, however, seem to have the goal of making
all their students do exactly the same things, some of which may not be
physiologically accurate or even possible! Their system may work
beautifully for them and a subset of players. But be aware, it may not
actually work for you, and at the wrong school you could feel stuck.
Do you have any advice you usually give to incoming students that
I could benefit from? For auditions, applying, anything would be
For auditions, I would say as a main note it is
not so much what you play as how you play it. We are listening for
potential; play music that shows your best qualities. The side points
would be that we ask scales and sight-reading in auditions. You can
practice sight-reading, and for sure can practice scales! You would be
surprised how many come to audition who don’t have their scales worked out
very well. Showing a good technical foundation is one of the ways you show
us your potential to improve.
In terms of applying, a tip would be
to really put some effort into your application and in particular to the
essays or personal statements. They do factor into scholarships.
Also, ASU is very generous to smart undergraduate applicants, many horn
applicants receive large academic awards, and with a good audition we can
add more on top of that. This is a very affordable place to study.
If I come for an audition, would there be an accompanist I can use?
No, but you don’t need one! This question comes in fairly
often. I think of all the brass auditions I have ever heard at any school
I have taught at only maybe three or four auditions had a pianist present,
I think in all cases the mother of the applicant. If you were auditioning
in voice, yes, a pianist would be provided. But on horn, you don’t need
one for your audition, and to have one would actually be highly unusual.
If memory serves, only one horn applicant I have ever heard had a pianist
at the ASU audition in the past 17 years. Would you consider
doing a lesson via skype?
I always try to meet with
prospective students for a lesson (at no charge) as part of your audition
and decision-making process about college. As an alternate, I am also
willing to schedule an online lesson with any prospective student via
Skype (again, at no charge).
Recent Student Successes--performing. In addition to
students playing extra regularly with the leading orchestras in Arizona, The Phoenix Symphony and
The Tucson Symphony, recent graduates have
won auditions for performing positions groups including:
The Amarillo Symphony
The Arizona Opera Orchestra
Central Band of the Royal Air Force
Musica Nova Orchestra
Navy Band Southwest
The Phoenix Opera
The Tainan Symphony Orchestra
The West Valley Symphony
The Wichita Symphony
Recent Student Successes--teaching. In addition to
dozens of K-12 music educators, recent ASU horn graduates have won positions
with organizations including:
And also note this former student of Dr. Ericson, from his time at SUNY Potsdam,
Assitant Professor, horn, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
More Questions? E-mail is one of the very best ways to reach Dr. Ericson. He is excited about the horn program at ASU and strongly encourage you to visit the campus. If you have any questions concerning your audition or horn playing, don't hesitate to contact him directly at